THE GENIE by Karen Uffelman

As I looked out at the desert wasteland before me, I wondered what had
brought me to this point. How did I go from mild-mannered toy store clerk
to wild man lost in the Sahara? Then I remembered the genie.

We were all drunk. Me, Thomas and Billy, drunk as skunks in the basement
of Magic Mouse Toys. Our manager, what’s-her-name, was home sick with the
flu, and, trust me, nobody’s coming to the toy store on a rainy January
4th, so we opted to close up shop early. It was pouring buckets outside
and none of us were prepared to face the deluge, so we retreated to the
downstairs storeroom and were well into the fifth of gin Thomas stole from
his dad’s liquor cabinet when the little genie showed up.

Like, a frickin’ real-live genie. How do you like that?

“What the hell?”

“Store’s closed!”

“Jesus Christ! What is that thing?”

He wasn’t the least bit scared of us, that’s for sure.

“Hello children.”

“Who you calling children? We’re, like, ten times bigger than you!”

“Look, we work here. We’re employees, okay? And this storeroom is
off-limits to….to….”

“Genies?” the little guy’s eyebrows shot up and he tilted his head to one
side.

“Where did you come from?”

Mr. Genie pointed above our heads. There, up on the top shelf, were five
or six small boxes, each labeled MAGIC LANTERN for children 6 and up.

“You came out of one of those? Are you serious?”

I was really drunk, so drunk that I thought I might be hallucinating.

“Listen up, young gentlemen, I know this is all surprising and shocking to
you, but I’ve got things to do and can’t really spend the rest of the
evening in the malodorous cellar. Let’s get down to business.”

Thomas got up from the over-turned bucket that had been serving as his
throne. The bucket was supposed to be catching the drops from the leaking
sidewalk above, which were now forming a puddle on the floor. Thomas
stepped right into the pool of water, but didn’t seem to notice. To judge
from his listing stance, he was possibly drunker than me.

“There’s going to be no business here, Mr. Genie man. You need to go back
into your toy lantern and we need to get back to drinking our gin. Right
guys? Right? Arthur, tell him!”

I opened my mouth to speak, but Billy piped up.

“What do you mean by business? Is this about wishes or something?”

“Or something!” Thomas bellowed, and then started giggling.

“I hate to say it,” the genie sighed, “but your wish is my command.”

Billy frowned, “I think this is some kind of trick. I saw an Outer Limits
like this. Don’t say the first thing that comes to mind, everybody, okay?”

“We each get three wishes, is that the deal?”

“Hmm. There’re three of you, so how about three wishes total? As I
mentioned, I don’t have all night. I have places to be, boys.”

Suddenly there was a giant toad where Thomas had been standing in the
water. Thomas was gone.

“What the hell was that? What did you just do? I thought you were supposed
to be granting us wishes! Where’s Thomas?”

“He wanted to see what it would feel like to be a toad.”

“No he did not….I mean…what just happened? He never asked to be a toad! He
didn’t have the chance! What did you do to him?”

“I’m pretty sure he said he wished to become a toad.”

“NO. HE. DIDN’T. I didn’t hear him! He never said any such thing!”

“Well, he thought it then. I really have to get going. Do you want your
wish or what?”

Billy and I looked at each other. Billy was starting to get panicky, I
could tell. I really needed some pretzels or something; my stomach was a
little queasy. I don’t even actually like gin.

“Look, Mr. Genie…”

And suddenly Billy was a toad, too.

Now I was starting to get panicky. I fixed the genie with my most serious
stare. And I eyed Thomas’s bucket. My stomach was rumbling and I might
need it.

“I want a real wish, okay, not this becoming a toad nonsense. You probably
think it’s funny, turning Thomas and Billy into amphibians, but even
though I’m really drunk I know it’s not fair. It’s probably against your
genie code of conduct or whatever.”

The genie rolled his eyes.

“Okay, I won’t turn you into a toad, but can you PLEASE hurry up and tell
me what you want? And no hysterics. Otherwise I’ll decide for you.”

“Where are you in such a hurry to go, anyway? It’s pouring outside. You’re
going to get drenched if you leave.”

“If you must know, I have a date. For which I am 75 years late. The girl
is hot, hot, hot, but she’s probably gotten sick of waiting for me, and
you asking me questions is not helping with my already extreme tardiness.”

“Okay, okay, I’ll try to be speedy, but I’m so drunk, I feel awfully
nauseous, and I don’t really know what I want.”

“Uh-huh. You feel nauseated, not nauseous. Why, universe, why? Why do I
get stuck granting wishes to pimply teenage boys who don’t even have a
grasp on basic grammar?”

And then it all gets kind of fuzzy.

I sort of remember telling him I was sick of my piss-ass job, sick of
living with my mom, sick of not having a girlfriend and having to jerk off
twice a day. But mostly, because the drops kept falling from the sidewalk
overhead and Thomas and Billy were hopping about in the giant puddle that
was now covering half of the floor and I was now the only one left to
clean it up…mostly I was sick TO DEATH of the rain. I just WISH I didn’t
have to deal with the RAIN.

And then, poof! I’m ankle-deep in scorching sand. Nothing but cactus and
rattlesnake and blistering sunshine. Desert wasteland. How do you like
that? I wandered for days and days. I’ve only just made it back to Seattle
and barely survived with my life.

But nobody believes me.

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About bbcstudiowrites

This blog is me archiving the BBC Studio Writers Workshop.

Posted on March 5, 2015, in Fiction, Seattle, Short Stories. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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